Month: October 2011

Kitschy Halloween

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Every year, the population of America (maybe other parts of the world), takes on the responsibility of decorating stores, houses and their bodies with all kinds of color schemes indicative of cultural and religious celebrations of “holiday” and Holy Days. I can’t run down the whole list of colours of course, but some of these are blue, white, gold, green, and red – a spectrum which takes into account something found in Christianity, Judaism and Kwanzaa. Festivus does not have a strict colour scheme. Or rather if it does, it fails to follow the rules of kitsch unless it makes fun of that kitsch (a form of cultural commentary perhaps?). But here we have only looked at colour schemes.

Other forms of kitsch are of course the burning of candles, trees, red fragile ornaments hanging on those trees and statues of all kinds. I can’t say the degree to which each person or family who uses these items in their respective celebrations does so for reasons of faith, religion (as faith and religion may not be the same thing) or other conforming societal forces. It matters not of course, but most of these celebrations have at least on their surface a veneer of joy, togetherness, family and love. I can’t think of any late-year winter celebration that does not fall into one of the categories (if not all). And there in lies the rub.

For when we look at these “holidays” (as opposed to “Holy Days,” which is really quite different methinks), we find default images on repeat yearly from the largest of retailers to the smallest of apartments. And when marketing schemes get involved, well, kitschy-ness just goes through the roof). There is a deep emotionalization attached to most of these repeated images and objects. And we have not even talked about the radio playing on repeat (almost literally) the same songs for countless hours every year. One person hugs and cries in happiness and another person feels warm & fuzzy inside for at least a few days every year. And a good thing too because this is such a hard world every other day.

But let’s not think life gets better really because not only do we have to BUY most of these objects/images yearly, but the increase of gifts and cash transactions also increases the types of crime that occurs during this most wonderful kitschy time of the year. But the point is that these images, objects and popular songs repeated yearly are safe. We like this type of sameness and I am labeling it “kitsch.”

If we step back two months in time before this approaching time of the year, we might ask ourselves if Halloween is also a time of kitsch. I mean, we hear some of the same songs in October, we search after the same kinds of movies at the same time each year and we decorate stores and apartments in the same colours (black, orange, white, and maybe red for blood) each year. Does this not encourage us to think of Halloween as a form of kitsch? Well…no! The reason is because burning candles do not suddenly jump up and scream in their user’s face while burning pumpkins chase lone travelers through covered bridges onward toward oblivion, elves do not crawl out of coffins and steal your life’s source while vampires do rip through your esophagus and drink your blood and men in red suits do not eat your flesh while zombies do look for humans to consume.

No images from this approaching “most wonderful kitschy time of the year” will cause you harm, but Halloween has lots of spirits and shadowy creatures that will, despite being repeated each year in cards and movies, shake the ground right from under your feet. There’s no way that experience is kitsch.

Hauntology

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Right now, there are all kinds of – ology names in America. Drinkology, Mixology, Lightology to name a few. It’s amusing. “Hauntology” is one of these. It’s good to know I am amidst a popular swell. But what is this science of hauntings? I mean to work out this “science” for my whole life. And not with a method that tracks ghosts either. My science follows the eternal return, that damnable stuff we think we can get rid of but which comes right back in the future (near or far). I can not scrutinize the abyss too close though because it would be like trying to look into an ever-burning cauldron. I am able to glance and peek. I can even see something maybe. But uncertainty reigns in the return. I glance and declare my observations. But the scary stuff is that I can’t keep my hands or eyes on the object. There is no object. It leaves me and returns anew to be seen again. Spiritual maybe. Again, I glance and grasp, but it is really me who is being held.